What is Brooks Bollinger?
Where has his development taken him?
These are some questions the Jets need to answer for themselves as they move forward with their complicated quarterback quandary after this season mercifully ends.
Two things we know for sure.
Firstly, Bollinger has gotten a chance he probably never thought he'd ever get because of the injuries to Chad Pennington, Jay Fiedler and then Vinny Testaverde.
Secondly, as good a story as Bollinger has become in his development, he is not NFL starting quarterback material.
The question the Jets have to ask themselves is whether Bollinger has shown them enough to instill confidence in him as a legitimate No. 2.
Highly-placed sources inside of Weeb Ewbank Hall tell us that Bollinger is not being looked at as a possibility to be the No. 2 next season or in any season. We're told that Bollinger is viewed by the coaching staff as nothing more than a No. 3 quarterback.
It's difficult to buy into that when you see him perform the way he did against the Saints last Sunday night, using his mobility to keep the opposing defense off balance, throwing accuracy and using good game-management judgment.
But, as good as Bollinger has looked at times, the statistics don't lie.
In his four starts for the Jets this season entering Sunday's game against the Patriots, Bollinger has led the Jets on 34 offensive possessions and produced only one touchdown and six field goals _ a total of 25 points. During that span, the Jets punted 17 times and turned the ball over six times.
Those are rather damning numbers, particularly when you consider quarterbacks are judged by how many times they get their team into the end zone.
Quarterbacks, too, are judged by wins and losses, and Bollinger went into the New England game 0-4 as a starter and 0-2 in relief appearances this season. Other than in a short stint in relief of Quincy Carter last year in Arizona, Bollinger has yet to be a part of a winning team in a single game.
That's something that wears on him, and his teammates would like to see him get off the hook.
"He's worked hard enough and prepared hard enough and is a good enough kid that I'd be happy to see him get a win,'' center Pete Kendall said.
"I wasn't aware that he doesn't have a win, but he's come very close,'' fullback Jerald Sowell said. "He's improving as a player; maybe this week will be the week.''
Added Vinny Testaverde, "For his own frame of mind and his own confidence, it would be nice to put up a win.''
"You can see the steps he's taken,'' Testaverde went on. "Us watching in the film room with all intracacies of playing the position we can certainly see the improvement he's made from the Baltimore game (his first start) to this past game. He's a heck of a quarterback.''
How good, though?
Bollinger is a smart guy. He said weeks ago that "your tapes are all you have'' in terms of impressing another team if things don't work out where you are. Bollinger is well aware that he's auditioning for the league right now.
Sunday's game in Foxboro, because it's coming after his best career performance and because it's against Bill Belichick's ever-disguising defense, figures to be a significant measuring stick for Bollinger, who needs another good performance and a win this time. Moral victories aren't going to win you jobs. Wins will.
"He feels better than he's ever felt right now because of how he played last week,'' Herman Edwards said. "He's got a whole different ballgame now, going into this week. He's going to find out what kind of guy he is in front of these guys. These guys confuse everybody, they do a good job of that. He'll go through it and we'll find out.''
Asked if he's "eager'' to see how Bollinger handles the New England defense, Edwards said, "I don't know if I'm eager, but we're going to find out how he's going to fare in that situation. It's part of the process of being the quarterback.
"The thing that they do very, very well is that they have a way of confusing guys, quarterbacks and offensive linemen. Especially when they come in with their different packages and how they can apply pressure and you think it's this and it's something else. You check into something where you think you have the blitz picked up, but you don't.
"They get you or the quarterback throws it to an area where they're bracketing the receiver. So, you have to be well aware of that. When you have a young quarterback you have to understand that going into that game, because they do a great job of disguising and really confusing guys. You try to take that out of it, but they do a good job of it. They have good veteran players and that's something we have to prepare for.''
In terms of his expectations of Bollinger, Edwards conceded that his wife, Lia, put things into perspective recently.
"My wife is a lot smarter than I am,'' Edwards said. "She said, 'You know, he's kind of like a rookie quarterback.' And I went, 'You know, you're right.' Because he hasn't had a lot of time. He's been here a few years, but he hasn't played. Up until the Baltimore game he only played nine snaps (nine throws) and now he's played a lot more and he's getting better.
"She asked me, 'If you had a rookie quarterback, what would you expect out of him?' Probably the same thing. She makes a great point. I didn't even think about it that way and she was right. He's had some struggles early, but he's getting better. When you play young guys, until you play you really don't know what you have. He's gotten better. I'm hoping he can continue to improve and get better. That's how you have to look at it.''
Bollinger has a couple more games to elevate himself in the franchise's mind. It'll surely take a couple of wins for them to gain the kind of confidence in him as a No. 2.
INSIDER EXTRA POINTS
Because of his play and because of Sunday being his first meeting with his former team, the Patriots, Ty Law became a hot-button topic this week.
The bottom line with regard to Law as a Jet is this: He's merely been OK and he hasn't really has the look of a guy who in his mind is going to be here beyond this season.
This week, he said about as much, hardly lobbying to remain in New York, when he waffled about staying and going back to free agency.
Obviously, the $11 million bonus he's due in March is a check that's never going to be written. And, from the sounds of Law's own self-evaluation _ he called himself still the best corner in the league _ it doesn't sound like he's going to be willing to offer any discounts.
Law came here as one of the best cornerback to play the position in our generation. He's a well-spoken good guy. But he hasn't really made a full-time investment in the Jets.
"Is this a pit stop?'' Law said of his stay with the Jets. "I can see why one would assume that, but you never know. It's hard to look at that right now when you're in the midst of a season. I've learned not to look too far into the future because you never know what's going to happen.
"Is it a possibility I'll be here as a Jet? I hope so. Is it a possibility I'll be a free agent again? That's a great possibility, too. Right now I don't know. There is a possibility I can be out there (on the market) again, I don't know.
"If you look at the logistics of everything it wouldn't be too hard to assume something like that (him not being back),'' Law went on. "We haven't come to that point yet, we haven't crossed that bridge, but I'll be fine with it either way.''
Those don't sound like words from a man who expects to be here beyond this season or, more importantly, wants to be here.
The crazy thing is this: Law might actually make the Pro Bowl, because he has five interceptions and that's all anyone ever looks at. They don't look at the nine penalties and the (for him) inordinate number of key third down passes completed against him.
"I still think I'm the best cornerback in football, especially given what I came back from,'' Law said, referring to his rehabilitation from foot surgery. "I don't know too many guys that would have came back from that as early as I have and be as productive as I have. I can't see too many people out there right now outplaying me.''
Let's not be too quick to consider rookie kicker Mike Nugent a bust, particularly in light of his potential game-winning field goal falling a foot or two short last week.
He's hardly had a chance this season because of the anemic Jets' offense.
Nugent will be better next season and will have more range on long field goals and sail his kickoffs longer, because he plans to bulk up a bit.
"I think everyone might look at the last kick, but I look at all of them,'' Edwards said, referring to the four field goals Nugent made before missing the 53-yarder. "If he doesn't make the first four, the game's not close. He kept us in the game. That's a good thing. Those kicks, to me, were as important as the last one.
"To me, those are pressure kicks you have to make. The more he goes through it, it helps him, obviously. He kept us in the game.
"He's going to be a good kicker, with his maturity. He'll get stronger, which I think all guys do because of his age, his leg will get stronger, his body will get stronger. You'll see this guy in the next two or three years, his body will change. He'll be a stronger kicker. Mentally, I think he's already tough. I just think the more we can get him in position to kick is good.''